Sometimes I like to tell myself stories, say, when I'm doing the dishes (which my husband might claim is rare) or putting on my make-up and drying my hair. And it occurred to me recently, that a couple of my favorite stories fell into the category of colleagues doing Stupid Writer Tricks. (Because, in the stories I tell myself, I'm always the heroine who is five times smarter than anyone else–and of course, I never do any of these myself. Nope, not ever.)
And then it occurred to me that these stupid writer tricks warranted a blog post. So here you go. In all seriousness, these are bad habits that can derail a writing career faster than my cats attacking their food dishes at 4 AM in the morning.
1. Not utilizing the basic tools of the trade. In the course of my travels through the writing landscape, I have come upon several practitioners of our craft who do not have word processing programs. God only knows what they type on, but this means, at a minimum, there's no formatting and no spell check. It also often means that others cannot open their manuscript. It for sure means that their submissions to anyone anywhere in the entire publishing world will be ignored and they will be branded as an amateur.
2. Ignoring conventions of genre and structure. Like, writing a mystery without a murder. Or thinking that it really doesn't matter if their novel's characters don't want anything. It does to matter, because, DESIRE MAKES THE WORLD GO ROUND. And furthermore: yes, the conventions of literature apply to you. No, your genius is not such that you can ignore them all. And if you persist in coddling your genius in this manner, guess what? The world will ignore your work.
3. Ignoring the critiques of those whom you have entrusted to read your manuscript. There's a fine art to taking criticism. Sometimes, it is so clearly not applicable and that's fine. Reject it. But I've seen writers ignore advice that would have made the difference between a meh book and a wow book and that's just plain dumb. Rule of thumb: if more than one person is bumping over something, consider changing it.
4. Ignoring submission guidelines. Years ago, at one of the first writing conferences I ever attended, an audience member inquired at an agent panel, "Does my manuscript have to be typed?" Sure wish I had a photo of the expressions on the faces of the agents there that day. I don't think anybody these days is quite that stupid, but you'd be surprised how many people I know fail to follow the most basic of submission guidelines. Bottom line is this: go to the website of the agent or publication to whom you wish to submit and DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY SAY.
5. Not using social media. Yeah, I know. It's beneath you. Tough. Do it anyway. If you don't like Twitter, use Facebook, and vice versa. If you don't like either, try Instagram (my current favorite). Or Pinterest. Maybe you'll even be one of 10 people who like Google+! Whatever, find something, anything that you like and work it.
6. Posting all self-promotion, all the time. I have a friend. She is the bane of all her writer's friends existences because all she does on social media is talk about her great she is and how everyone loves her book so much and how now she's appearing at this conference (where everybody loves her) and now she's reading at this event. Barf. I've got news for you–after awhile, nobody pays attention. I know its a cliche, but what we want is to engage. Start conversations. Comment on what other people post. Chat a bit. It'll get you way more followers–and it is way more fun.
7. Not writing every day. Because none of the above matter one bit if you don't.
Which of the above are you guilty of? Okay, maybe you don't want to confess publicly. So which ones are your writer friends guilty of?